Tuesday, February 21, 2012

DNA: WEIRD need not apply

OpenSNP is offering free DNA testing kits from 23andMe to increase the genetic database beyond people who are WEIRD.  This is an acronym that stands for White, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic.  I did not know that this was the name for what I have been noticing.  Most of my genetic relatives are just like me, and I did not suspect this was because we are all related.  I probably have genetic relatives all over the world in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Yet they do not show up in the database at 23andMe.  I suspected that their absence was not evidence that they were not related, but rather that they did not have the means or interest to undertake DNA testing, and this article provides me with a more formal name for this situation.  The limited subject range also permeates areas beyond genetic testing.

I am working on the results of a lady who submitted her kit to 23andMe through their Roots into the Future project, designed to gather data on African Americans.  She currently has 46 relations, while I have over 1300.  She should also have thousands of detectable distant genetic relatives, but they are not in the genetic database (yet).